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Fields of Fire» Forums » Rules

Subject: Logical problems? rss

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Matthew Simpson
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I have a submitted a review... and it is pending.

But I thought I might have missed something, so maybe you all can answer my questions and I can edit the review.

Logic Problems: 5/10
Does everything make sense, does it fit inside the world it has created?

In a large sense, yes. There is logic to the communication, initiative etc. There is a lot of logic that fits. But... there are also some problems...

1. Why can a 1 step unit create as much pressure on my unit as a 3 step unit?

2. What is the value of having 3 way fire... The game does not seem to take into account anything other then crossfire and type of weapon.

3. What is the advantage of me bringing my entire platoon into the fight? Once again, 9 step or 1 step, the advantage is the same.

4. Infiltration... I can infiltrate into a card if it is under fire... 1 Action. If I succeed, I can go into cover if available and don't have to take a -2 penalty for exposed. If I fail, I move into the card like normal. What? That makes no sense at all. I should always try to infiltrate... But it does not matter anyway... I can not put down any additional fire advantage...

5. Why can't I have my 2 units on the same card firing at different enemies? That makes zero sense.

6. Ok, I get that the Germans can attack from off the map... but I can't move to engage them in that same area? Ugh... Seems to be a weird rule to decide to add...

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Holman
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simpsonps121 wrote:
I have a submitted a review... and it is pending.

But I thought I might have missed something, so maybe you all can answer my questions and I can edit the review.

Logic Problems: 5/10
Does everything make sense, does it fit inside the world it has created?

In a large sense, yes. There is logic to the communication, initiative etc. There is a lot of logic that fits. But... there are also some problems...

1. Why can a 1 step unit create as much pressure on my unit as a 3 step unit?

2. What is the value of having 3 way fire... The game does not seem to take into account anything other then crossfire and type of weapon.

3. What is the advantage of me bringing my entire platoon into the fight? Once again, 9 step or 1 step, the advantage is the same.

4. Infiltration... I can infiltrate into a card if it is under fire... 1 Action. If I succeed, I can go into cover if available and don't have to take a -2 penalty for exposed. If I fail, I move into the card like normal. What? That makes no sense at all. I should always try to infiltrate... But it does not matter anyway... I can not put down any additional fire advantage...

5. Why can't I have my 2 units on the same card firing at different enemies? That makes zero sense.

6. Ok, I get that the Germans can attack from off the map... but I can't move to engage them in that same area? Ugh... Seems to be a weird rule to decide to add...



Just some brief responses:

1) FoF takes as its premise that most infantry fire is unaimed, as historically it was in the campaigns depicted. There's really no guarantee that a full squad firing into a position will produce more casualties than two or three men doing the same. (And recall studies that many WW2 front-line soldiers in contact not only seldom aimed but seldom pulled their trigger at all.)

What *does* happen is that both a one-step unit and a three-step unit putting out fire will eventually draw fire on itself, and the one-step will evaporate far more quickly than the three-step.

2) Again, the general fire situation in FoF is units putting bullets towards an enemy's position, not specific enemy targets. Effectiveness doesn't scale with volume. As a company commander, you will often want your units to be *withholding* fire while another unit does the job, but getting them to do so is one of the command problems modeled in the game.

If you want to simulate leaders directing fire as precisely as they can, you use the Concentrate Fire order, which has a very significant (and cumulative) effect on the numbers used in the game. That is what it is for.

3) See above. Having your whole platoon engaged in ongoing fire means that your base of fire is extremely resilient to return fire. And combat in this game is all about the *exchange* of fire over time.

4) Infiltration in this game isn't just "being sneaky;" it means avoiding exposure to enemy fire and enemy sightlines as you enter a position. How can you avoid exposure to fire that doesn't exist and avoid sightlines of which you are completely unaware?

5) The game treats units as responding to the greatest perceived threat. The problem of command (which is what the whole game is about) at this level is making sure that your units perceive the correct one.

6) Boundaries and limits of advance are 100% historical. Crossing in front of a friendly company is asking for friendly fire. Moving ahead of your ordered stop line throws off other HQ plans. Of course the enemy doesn't care about the lines your commanders have drawn.

--

I think best way to approach FoF (well, after skimming the rules and watching the videos and then actually reading the rules) is to remember that it doesn't game what most wargames game.

It isn't mainly about maneuvering your units or about firing with them (they actually fire on their own); it's about allocating orders and keeping in communication. It focuses on precisely those aspects of infantry command that most traditional wargames abstract out of existence. If some of the things that other wargames cover in detail are more abstracted here, that's part of the design. Those are things the squad leaders worry about, and you're the company commander.
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Andreas Krüger
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1. I trust the designer on this one, it seems to be true for the depicted period and type of fight.
2. It is hard enough to bring in crossfire. Also, I'm not sure how doable it would be in real life to fire at a position from 3 or more sides without causing friendly fire. One pinning force and one flanking force should be enough.
3. See #1. Send just one squad forward, and keep reserves.
4. Yes, absolutely always try. It matters, because it keeps you alive. I'm not sure what your problem is here.
5. This is actually a mechanical simplification so PDF and VOF are easy to manage. Note that it is called PRIME direction of fire, so I guess ineffective fire into other directions is implied.
6. You don't want to be there, cause the commanders on your flank control this area. They may call in artillery on something that moves there. I don't know how WW2 US companies organized attack plans, but it makes some sense to me.
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Matt R
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Just to add to the excellent points already made, (I won't bother trying to address each individual point as I think they have all been covered quite well already):
It is my understanding that the actual effective fire coming from an entire platoon is not nearly as effective as that same platoon divided up into separate squads and all firing from different directions, and that the fire coming from a single platoon all bunched up and firing at the same target is honestly no more effective statistically-speaking than perhaps even a single squad. If you want more effective fire from your platoon then divide it up into squads, move at least one of those squads onto another card that can still attack the target card, and concentrate fire.

What is being modeled with a single platoon having no better effective fire than a single squad is that an enemy unit receiving fire is going to duck and seek cover, so all of the additional firepower heading their way may not even really be doing much good. Furthermore, I'm not sure that everyone in the platoon is actively firing anyway - there may not be good firing positions on the enemy position outside of 1/3 of the platoon anyway, which is about the firepower of a single squad. Also, these are riflemen - anything heavier like an MG, mortars, etc. all have separate counters and are able to direct a heavier volume of fire.

Which brings up my other main point, that being that the primary item being simulated in Fields of Fire is command and control. I believe that this game models quite well all stages of a firefight from when an enemy is initially engaged by the platoon, to dividing up the platoon into more effective fire and ambush teams, moved into attacking from different directions, etc. I cannot think of a single game that does a better overall job of simulating an infantry company even though Up Front does a better job of modeling individual squad versus squad individual combat.
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Mark Hathaway
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I look forward to reading your review of this excellent game... I'm pretty sure we're going to differ somewhat on our overall impression.

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above, absolutely nailed it as far as responses to your potential logical inconsistencies in the game.

I'm not going to dilute his answers by an attempt to answer them in my own voice, so I will stand behind him and goad you from afar, 'come on then, what he said!'.

By the way I'm an unapologetic evangelist of this game and cannot see my own subjectivity to do anything but adore this game. Of course I welcome wrong opinions of this game too.

Only game I own that I score a 10.
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Simon Ng
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You’ve received some excellent responses. So first off, I’m not going to repeat them, just add a couple of further comments. Secondly, this game is as close to reality in company command as I’ve seen. I scored it a 9.0 only because the rule book is imperfect (not bad, just imperfect). As a simulation, it is brilliant, but not for everyone. I can’t stand ASL, but some crazy people love it...

simpsonps121 wrote:
1. Why can a 1 step unit create as much pressure on my unit as a 3 step unit?

Read Grossman’s On Killing, which provides an excellent review of the area. Almost no one in WW2 fired with any accuracy. And fire doesn’t sum linearly, which is your assumption. Density of fire above a certain level has a diminishing effect.

Quote:
3. What is the advantage of me bringing my entire platoon into the fight? Once again, 9 step or 1 step, the advantage is the same.

Concentrating Fire is the advantage, but so is the capacity to sustain VoF after reduction.

Quote:
4. Infiltration... I can infiltrate into a card if it is under fire... 1 Action. If I succeed, I can go into cover if available and don't have to take a -2 penalty for exposed. If I fail, I move into the card like normal. What? That makes no sense at all. I should always try to infiltrate... But it does not matter anyway... I can not put down any additional fire advantage...

Units are always moving to take advantage of cover. Infiltration is different because the units have a much better idea of where fire is coming from and so can use cover more appropriately to protect themselves from that fire.

Quote:
6. Ok, I get that the Germans can attack from off the map... but I can't move to engage them in that same area? Ugh... Seems to be a weird rule to decide to add...

Tactical controls such as manouevre boundaries aren’t just historical, they are current. That is the way to maintain coherent lines of operation across different command zones. Herein lies one of the issues: the expectations we derive from other wargames (and movies to boot) are unrealistic, and so we assume that this game is unrealistic because it doesn’t meet our expectations. This isn’t our fault, just the nature of the experiences we build from most wargames at the tactical level, which don’t really reflect reality.

I find ASL and LnL and a whole bunch of other tactical games mildly disappointing for this very reason. ASL in particular suffers from empty battlefield, perfect C2 and almost complete situational awareness syndromes (and it has rules for river crossings in row boats...puhlease...).

Anyway, FoF isn’t for everyone. And it is good that you’ve actually asked these questions: it shows a decent level of due diligence. A lot of people just put out opinions without asking for them to be challenged. Kudos to you.

Whatever your final assessment, I look forward to reading it :-)
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Matthew Simpson
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These are great answers. I am not aware of historical data that says fire from multiple fronts is not advantageous... in fact that goes against all the warfare tactics I have ever read about. (flanking tactics have been used since warfare started...) But maybe the tactics are on a larger perspective then platoon level...

If that is what he is trying to model, then by all means, he does that accurately.

I am not trying to discourage anyone that likes this game. But those that are wanting to learn it... need to realize it is massively a different beast. I am not sure I would call this a wargame... it really is not focused on the combat tactics. More of the command and control aspects...
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simpsonps121 wrote:
These are great answers.

They were great questions :-)

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I am not aware of historical data that says fire from multiple fronts is not advantageous... in fact that goes against all the warfare tactics I have ever read about. (flanking tactics have been used since warfare started...) But maybe the tactics are on a larger perspective then platoon level...

I don’t think I was saying that. I’m pretty sure others weren’t either. Crossfire essentially negates a +1 cover, implying that weak cover is easily ‘flanked’. Strong cover is harder to flank because it protects from all sides. So two PDFs from different directions is rewarded. This is flanking.

Mass is reflected in concentrated fire. 3 Squads can get a -3 concentrated fire effects with enough nous, which negates even the strongest cover. So flanking can be rewarded twice (crossfire and concentration).

Massing units into one firing position is never smart in modern warfare. Troop dispersal with overlapping lines of fire is what you want and this is feasible in FoF. If you are stacking three squads in one place, you are balancing command and control ease with vulnerability to incoming fire.

Should units in one location be able to fire in every direction? I guess that could be argued, although my military connections suggest that this isn’t typical. They tend to establish fire positions across an arc (read card side) and focus there, although some fire outside that arc might happen. My advice is each firing position should overlap with the next to allow cross fire. I do this in FoF by occupying cards side by side to produce concentrated fire.

I read a really interesting book called 18 hours which shows that even a surrounded unit tends to focus on one front at a time, but does switch fire. Not sure whether the game captures this perfectly...

But what it really shows is how the best laid intentions fall apart upon contact. All hell breaks loose and even with modern comms and ISR, it just turns to mush.

Quote:
I am not trying to discourage anyone that likes this game. But those that are wanting to learn it... need to realize it is massively a different beast. I am not sure I would call this a wargame... it really is not focused on the combat tactics. More of the command and control aspects...

I certainly take your observations in the spirit of constructive debate. You can like a game I don’t and vice versa. I find it highly realistic at the level of a CO CMDR, but accept it isn’t a high fidelity simulation at every level and may not get everything perfect.
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Mark Hathaway
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simpsonps121 wrote:
...it really is not focused on the combat tactics. More of the command and control aspects...

And that is what makes this game such a close approximation to the chaos on the ground and the reality of modern combat.

The combat reality is that for most combat engagements, I would wager of the 20th century, everything went mammaries uppermost as soon as the lead started flying; 'no plan survives first contact with the enemy', and all that. To that end, modern combat is all about keeping command and control where 'tactics', at the troop level, are largely just reactionary and are hugely secondary to C2.

That's why this game is so good.

The vast swathe of wargmes where the player has almost god-like omniscience over the battle field and their troops do what exactly what is ordered of them, with varying degrees of success, abstract the essence of what modern conflict is all about - this game models it.

Just my tuppence.

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Mattias Johansson
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Great answers!
PaulWRoberts wrote:

Boundaries and limits of advance are 100% historical. Crossing in front of a friendly company is asking for friendly fire.

In some cases you should not even be allowed to fire at the enemy if he´s located too far out on your flank because of the risk of you hitting your friends in other units. Shooting boundaries in the military are very strict.
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Steve N
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One observation and one question:

Observation
Don't forget the "platoon concentrate fire" command. That will reward you for massing units in the same location.

Question
One of the advantages for a unit which completes a successful infiltration is that it can move a second time (because it won't be exposed). I never used to play this way until I noted some posts in which this was discussed - and I could find nothing in the rules to refute it. What is the logic in this? What has this unit done to grant it extra mobility and why is this only possible when under fire? If any units were going to be granted extra mobility I would have expected it to be those that were not under fire.

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Doug DeMoss
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PaulWRoberts wrote:

I think best way to approach FoF (well, after skimming the rules and watching the videos and then actually reading the rules) is to remember that it doesn't game what most wargames game.

It isn't mainly about maneuvering your units or about firing with them (they actually fire on their own); it's about allocating orders and keeping in communication. It focuses on precisely those aspects of infantry command that most traditional wargames abstract out of existence. If some of the things that other wargames cover in detail are more abstracted here, that's part of the design. Those are things the squad leaders worry about, and you're the company commander.


This is the key point. On the surface, Fields of Fire looks like a tactical battle simulation. It is not. It is a tactical COMMAND simulation. The fighting is simulated just enough to give you the appropriate command dilemmas.
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ReggieMcFly wrote:
One observation and one question:

Observation
Don't forget the "platoon concentrate fire" command. That will reward you for massing units in the same location.

Question
One of the advantages for a unit which completes a successful infiltration is that it can move a second time (because it won't be exposed). I never used to play this way until I noted some posts in which this was discussed - and I could find nothing in the rules to refute it. What is the logic in this? What has this unit done to grant it extra mobility and why is this only possible when under fire? If any units were going to be granted extra mobility I would have expected it to be those that were not under fire.



Thematically, I would chalk this up to the fact that more happens when units are fighting than when they are not (and of course FoF's time scale is intentionally "elastic"). Units under fire work harder.

Mechanically, there's also the basic fact that being exposed means the enemy should have a chance to target you. Given the phase-based nature of the game sequence, being able to move again while exposed would rob them of that chance.
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Matthew Simpson
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demoss1 wrote:
PaulWRoberts wrote:

I think best way to approach FoF (well, after skimming the rules and watching the videos and then actually reading the rules) is to remember that it doesn't game what most wargames game.

It isn't mainly about maneuvering your units or about firing with them (they actually fire on their own); it's about allocating orders and keeping in communication. It focuses on precisely those aspects of infantry command that most traditional wargames abstract out of existence. If some of the things that other wargames cover in detail are more abstracted here, that's part of the design. Those are things the squad leaders worry about, and you're the company commander.


This is the key point. On the surface, Fields of Fire looks like a tactical battle simulation. It is not. It is a tactical COMMAND simulation. The fighting is simulated just enough to give you the appropriate command dilemmas.


This is SUCH a key point. As soon as Holman made that point to me, it entirely changes my perspective of the game. Instead of fighting with the game to try to remove the chaos of battle, you embrace the chaos as a part of battle.

This is NOT a military simulation (puzzle). This is a command puzzle to figure out. What happens in the firefight is sort of secondary.

Massive massive point.

(I would argue that the name of the game should be changed from Fields of Fire, to Command of the Field.)
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Matt R
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simpsonps121 wrote:
demoss1 wrote:


This is the key point. On the surface, Fields of Fire looks like a tactical battle simulation. It is not. It is a tactical COMMAND simulation. The fighting is simulated just enough to give you the appropriate command dilemmas.


This is SUCH a key point. As soon as Holman made that point to me, it entirely changes my perspective of the game. Instead of fighting with the game to try to remove the chaos of battle, you embrace the chaos as a part of battle.

This is NOT a military simulation (puzzle). This is a command puzzle to figure out. What happens in the firefight is sort of secondary.

Massive massive point.

(I would argue that the name of the game should be changed from Fields of Fire, to Command of the Field.)


But, as the company commander, you are trying to control the fields of fire. But your point is taken.

I am also glad that everyone on this thread have remained completely civil and reasonable in their posts, including the initial OP thread, when this could have devolved into insults. That's why I enjoy wargame forums and (most) BGG forums. Thank you everyone. I thought I understood what FoF is trying to simulate but have still come away from this thread with an even greater appreciation for what Ben is trying to do with this game's command and control modeling.
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ReggieMcFly wrote:
One observation and one question:

Observation
Don't forget the "platoon concentrate fire" command. That will reward you for massing units in the same location.

Question
One of the advantages for a unit which completes a successful infiltration is that it can move a second time (because it won't be exposed). I never used to play this way until I noted some posts in which this was discussed - and I could find nothing in the rules to refute it. What is the logic in this? What has this unit done to grant it extra mobility and why is this only possible when under fire? If any units were going to be granted extra mobility I would have expected it to be those that were not under fire.


This is legal. And enticing. But I rarely do it, mostly because it stretches my units out to a point that command control becomes an issue. Also, don’t forget that every unit you infiltrate must make a draw. Infiltrating a squad is rarely fully successful. Moving after that generally entails spreading units out more than I like to. And using up precious command points.

It makes sense to me because exposed units have been engaged more effectively than unexposed units. So the unexposed units can keep moving while the exposed ones have to deal with fire.
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The Easy company 12-man attack on a German FG platoon defending a 105 gun battery seems to be a good counter-example to the answers given to #2 here: Winters directed 3 bases of fire, all from different directions including the rear, while directing 3 men to hit the flank, and charging with the remaining riflemen when the flanking force arrived.

I also thought that this seemed silly at first (as other tactical games give a bonus), but it seems like there are real examples of multi-directional fire causing the enemy to panic and retreat. That is, in Easy's situation, it caused 6 men to surrender, several machinegun and mortar positions were abandoned, and the Germans seemed to then be ignorant of the flanking force in all the chaos.
 
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Noonespecial wrote:

This is NOT a military simulation (puzzle). This is a command puzzle to figure out. What happens in the firefight is sort of secondary.


What if all of your men die in the firefight? Does that matter to the commander?
 
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With regards to #2, it looks like there are actually some explicit rules that encourage and reward setting up a crossfire:

6.2, Concentrated Fire NCM modifier: -1

"A unit can be the target of multiple concentrated
fires, all of which are cumulative."

Crossfire NCM modifier: –1

"Place this VOF marker on a card when there are two
or more PDFs directed at a given card. It is cumulative
with the other VOF markers. Place no more than
one Crossfire marker on any given card.

Pinned units can be used to generate a Crossfire."

So, the designer may be intending to essentially reward this "crossfire" effect at 2, and since the detail is coarse-grained, the effect can't be ratcheted up for n+1 crossfires. That is, a crossfire developed by three units shouldn't give a +2 where a two unit crossfire gives a +1 - a 100% increase in effectiveness.

It seems fair to me to then require that, if you want to lay it on thick with this kind of maneuver, you engineer some concentrated fires, which will be cumulative.
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David Janik-Jones
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Paul Roberts largely has it right. I'll not add to any of the answers above because they're pretty much spot on.

Aside the utter absence of any real command and control realities in any other tactical wargame, fire boundaries are one of three things* that bug me about ASL, CC (my fave), LnL, PG, etc etc. The reality of WW2 combat is that you couldn't run your squads around willy-nilly all over the battlefield.

Company commanders were given strict objectives and boundaries from the higher levels in briefings, and then decided how they were going accomplish those that tasks and broke the problem down to their platoon commanders. Then, as platoons, you attempted to accomplish those tasks (for British platoons, over about a 50-100m wide frontage, i.e., 2-3 CC hexes). You don't wander all over trying to get other stuff done.

The nice thing about FoF is that it abstracts the scale of each card's terrain so that it can represent a US company's WW2 attack or defence correctly.

* No C-and-C modelling, no unit boundaries, unrealistic unit frontages in attacks and defence, and unrealistically weak artillery.
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Daniel Schulz
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For me the eureka moment was when I was a seasoned E4 Scout, and my wrinkled squad leader, an E6 said to me "Schulz - I know you play those games. We've been talking tactics lately. We want you to show us a thing or two..." I'm paraphrasing of course.

Oh shit, I thought.

That was the moment that I realized that my precious wargames were merely games. It was pretty shocking, actually, enough that I remember it. I mean these games are nothing like reality. Mind you as a 19D cavalry scout I was well versed in mechanized warfare, and movements a military unit makes when things are working right. I'd been in a TC slot within a few months of graduating basic, and filled that position for the remainder of my service. At that time (in the 80s) US cav units were closely integrated - ie tanks and scouts were in the same platoon. The platoons were 10 total vehicles (4 tanks, 5 scout tracks, 1 mortar track), so a troop movement consisted of 30 vehicles. Moving as part of a mile wide unit is not uncommon.

We've all considered the factors involved, wondered how to make these game represent reality better. There's the lack of fog of war, the simultaneous movement problem, the birds eye view problem, and the biggest problem of all - decisions are made by different actors, not by a single god like player, god like fire control that is so laughable we all ignore the elephant in the room because it so dang fun. That does not scratch the surface I'm afraid. Yes, I've had a few ASL like cat-n-mouse chases in wooded roads (when I've gotten lost), but by and large units move around in a specific way - like a giant pack of wolves, with each individual acting independently to a certain extent, but as a larger organism at another level. A lot of the behavior is dictated by training (notably autonomous fire control). Bounding overwatch is universally used by all countries, everywhere. It's the most effective way for a combat unit to maneuver, so effective in fact that if you don't you end up getting killed.

Try that in ASL, or any tactical game. You'll get picked apart at the edges. Oh they try to fake it by calling it opporatunity fire or whatever. It's not the same ballpark.

In reality it is very difficult just to properly move a mechanized unit across average terrain. It is essentially 100% brain engagement while on combat maneuvers. You're trying to keep a position, while scanning for targets. You can only see maybe 1 or 2 of the vehicles you are working with. You are maneuvering as a group, whether attacking or bounding. The others you can't see you have to make mental notes, based largely on radio traffic (and the op order, or plan) and phase line usage. Usually the stress level is high, as well, with lots of caffeine added in. It feels nothing like a wargame, and if you try to use anything you['ve learned in a wargame you'll likely get yourself killed. As much as I hate to admit it, the closet thing you get is probably computer games - shooters like Call of Duty (which is pretty dang good, btw).

Don't get me wrong. I love ASL, but ranking any board game is like splitting hairs. I give them all a 1 on a 100 scale.

As far as the OP's concern with the way fire stacks in this game. If you consider it a measure of the fire in a hex, as opposed to what a unit is projecting, you'll see it's merely a resolution problem. The designer is saying that no matter how much small arms you throw into an area, you will not rise to the level of automatic weapons fire. He is not saying that doubling the small arms firing is meaningless in reality. You do get diminishing returns of course. If he were making a more complex game he may have made a few more rules here. The way it is now it's fairly simple, and encourages realistic tactics.
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